Buried deep in Annex Three of the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran is a pair of clauses that appear to commit the United States and other world powers to the defense of Iran’s nuclear program. Annex III.D.10.1-2 contains the following text:
E3/EU+3 parties, and possibly other states, as appropriate, are prepared to cooperate with Iran on the implementation of nuclear security guidelines and best practices. Co-operation in the following areas can be envisaged:
10.1. Co-operation in the form of training courses and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to prevent, protect and respond to nuclear security threats to nuclear facilities and systems as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical protection systems;
10.2. Co-operation through training and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against, and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage, as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical protection systems.
Exactly what does this commit us to do?
It would appear that it commits us to help Iran develop capacities to prevent things like the STUXNET worm that delayed its nuclear program’s advances through cybernetic sabotage.
Though it is widely believed that the United States was involved in the development and deployment of STUXNET, the exact role of the United States in the STUXNET worm is one of the more closely guarded secrets of our national security system. Revealing secrets about the way in which such worms are developed and deployed would mean entrusting extremely sensitive data to Iran – a nation that has weaponized, for distribution to terrorist groups, every technology it has thus far obtained.
Another thing it might encompass is training Iranian commandos who are tasked with being the last line of defense for Iranian nuclear security.
Our final-line teams are our most capable special operations units under the authority of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). JSOC has long had teams, including necessary support units such as aircraft, who have successfully “rendered safe” nuclear weapons associated with North Korea. They stand ready to do so in the case of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
Having a similar mission for JSOC pointed at Iran would make sense, but the text of the agreement does not suggest that we will undertake to seize Iranian weapons or nuclear facilities in the event that they seem to be in danger of falling into terrorist hands. Rather, we promise to train them in improving their own capacities to secure facilities. Training Iranian commandoes is simply unwise given Iran’s decades-long history of murdering Americans.
Indeed, even in terms of helping Iran to understand the holes in their nuclear security, we risk exposing lessons learned that could be turned against our own foes by terrorists trained by Iranian agents. The extraordinary role of nuclear security has long been associated with America’s finest warriors. The first commander of SEAL Team Six went on to create a unit called Red Cell that was composed of veteran SEALs and a member of Marine Force Recon. They were able to use their skills to penetrate the most highly secure facilities associated with the American nuclear programs. These are not skills we would wisely teach to Iranian agents, especially given that our own nuclear security has proven easily breached even by far less capable agents such as this 82-year-old female peace activist. The more we teach Iran about how to secure their facilities, the less secure ours are.
Finally, in training Iran to protect its facilities, we handicap allies such as Israel that may wish to strike those facilities. It is unclear how far this annex’s promises take us down that road. At the furthest end we might find ourselves revealing critical intelligence about Israeli tactics, techniques and procedures to Iranian agents. We might end up detailing Israeli operations of which we had knowledge because previous administrations had cooperated with Israel as an ally. We might even go as far as sharing intelligence on Israeli operations that they do not know we have knowledge of, but have obtained via NSA intercepts or human intelligence. It seems this agreement commits us to opposing Israel should it continue on what has until now been a joint American/Israeli project. Unless Israel lays down its opposition to Iran’s nuclear program, we must now treat Iran as an ally against Israel instead of the reverse. Given our history with each of these two countries, that is reckless in the extreme.